This is the sequel to Lesson 41—meaning, this is our second lesson in Course-based meditation. As such, it talks about the practice more and gives us more developed instructions.
In Lesson 41, the idea was to contact God within, so that we knew that He really is with us always, no matter where we go. Here the idea is to contact God within, so that we also contact the inner light that allows us to see, to really see.
Obviously, the meaning of this idea is not that God is the light in which we currently see. It’s that God is the light that makes real seeing possible. When we are seeing with just physical light, we aren’t seeing; we’re blind.
This is the continuation of yesterday’s idea. Yesterday was saying that our seeing comes from God. This is saying that the light that makes true seeing possible is God’s light. While seeing with physical light, we are really seeing in darkness. Physical light does not illuminate meaning, and when you don’t see what things really mean, you’re blind. To see real meaning, we need a different light source, and that light source is God.
So how do we turn on the light in order to truly see? Unlike physical light, this light is inside us. It is God’s light. It is always with us, which means we can see in any circumstance (just like 42.2:2). The light is never turned off, but are we in touch with that ever-present light?
This explains the practice. Today is about contacting that inner light, the light of God within us, so that we can see. How do we contact that light? Through Course-based meditation. Notice that he mentions this “form of exercise” has been taught before (Lesson 41), and that he says we will utilize it “increasingly.” That makes it sound important, doesn’t it? Notice too that it “represents a major goal of mind training.” That really makes it sound important. Why is it such a major goal? Because unless we train our minds to contact this inner light, we will not see, not really. We’ll just see empty forms, which means we won’t be seeing at all.
Mind training: If you think your mind wanders too much, that doesn’t mean you aren’t suited to meditation. It means your mind needs to be trained. And it can be trained.
Notice that meditation only seems unnatural and difficult. That is an illusion produced by our mind’s lack of training. Actually, it is completely natural and easy, and that’s exactly how we’ll experience it when our mind is trained. In this respect, then, meditation is like so many other tasks we’ve learned, which at first seemed completely unnatural, and eventually became second-nature. Only in this case, once it becomes second-nature, we will find that it’s actually first-nature. It is our original nature.
You hear all that stuff about training and you may well think, “No wonder I find it so hard. My mind is totally untrained.” But he slightly disagrees. He says you are ready, even “quite ready,” because your mind is “no longer wholly untrained.” You’re partly trained; what great news!
The real issue isn’t so much lack of training, because you’ve got enough to get started, but resistance. Why might there be resistance? Because you are leaving behind your familiar world. Your habitual thoughts are the furniture of your world. In this practice, you clear away all that furniture. You even clear away the familiar objects around you. All the usual features of your world—the road, the houses, the shopping malls, the mountains, the clouds, all of it—all of it goes in this practice. This seems like loss of identity and descent into hell. But it’s really release from hell.
But we don’t need to listen to the ego’s fears. We can instead stand aside from it and realize that its fears and resulting resistance make no actual sense. This is something we can do during the meditation&mdsh;remind ourselves that this is the escape from the darkness we’ve been living in. This is contacting the light so that at last we can see!
So we’ve had an answer to the complaint “I’m totally untrained.” Answer: You are not wholly untrained. You are ready. You can be trained further.
And there’s an answer to your resistance. Answer: This is not a descent into hell. This is escape from hell because it is escape from the darkness you’ve been in. This is contacting the light so you can see.
What excuses do we have left?
Here is the first of four paragraphs of instruction on doing the meditation—quite a bit, really. Each of the four has a main theme.
1. The main action: sinking into your mind, past insane thoughts to the presence of God
This is what you are spending your time doing during the meditation. All your attention is on moving to a different place, deep within your mind, which means sinking past what Lesson 41 called the dense cloud of insane thoughts.
How do you sink past those thoughts? You merely observe them as Lessons 10 and 31taught you to: dispassionately, with detachment; and particularly, without involvement, without getting caught up in them. And then just keep moving toward the center: “slip quietly by.” We have three phrases that all say the same thing: “sinking quietly past,” “slip quietly by” and “without involvement.” They all say: don’t let the thoughts stop you. Don’t grab on, just slide past.
It helps in this if you realize that your mind is just taking its natural course (another affirmation that meditation is not unnatural). Like one of those dogs that gets lost and finds its way home years later, your mind is geared toward going home. This means that if it is to stop in its sinking process (get involved in those thoughts), you have to stop it. In other words, you don’t naturally snag on those thoughts. Your mind naturally slips by them on the way to its home. In truth, then, you don’t “get hooked” by the thoughts, you have to grab them.
2. The key attitude: a heightened sense of the importance, value, and holiness of what you are doing
Notice that first half of a sentence: “no particular approach is advocated.” He means that the mechanics matter less than the attitude. On the mechanical, or form, level, you might imagine you are sinking through clouds to the sunrise below. Or you might imagine you are sinking through the choppy surface of water to the calm depths below. Or you might imagine you are sinking through darkness to a far-off light that grows as you approach it. Or you might imagine you are easing down a long passageway toward a holy altar. There are all sorts of things you might imagine, form-wise.
That’s not so important. “What is needful” is a sense about what you are doing, a sense of three things: the importance of it, the inestimable value of it, and the holiness of it. This heightened sense is crucial. It’s what is “needful.” And that, I find, is true in my experience. The more “psyched up” I am about what I’m doing, about the importance, value, and holiness of my morning meditation, the better I do. In fact, I think this is probably the main reason why group meditation is often more successful. When you sit down with others and you are all joined in this attempt, it just feels like a bigger deal.
The basic idea is that it’s your mind, so if you really want to go to a certain place in it—if you think going there is important, valuable, and even holy—you will go there. It’s your property, and you can visit any portion of your property. All it takes is wanting to.
So reflect a while on these three aspects:
This is truly important, for your salvation and the salvation of the world. As you contact the light, everyone around you, including people in distant places, benefits.
This is inestimably valuable to you. Reaching this light is what you want more than anything else. It is “your happiest accomplishment.”
And this is “very holy.” Reaching and communing with the holiness in you is a deeply holy thing. Rather than being ashamed that you are wasting time on yourself, time that you could spend being useful, tell yourself, “I am attempting something very holy.”
3. To deal with resistance: repeat the idea
Realize this resistance can take a lot of forms—the first sentence says “resistance in any form.” Of course, the big form Jesus has in mind is a sense of fear about sinking down and inward. But he treats that here as a special case. With that form of resistance, you actually open your eyes for a bit. But with the other forms, you repeat the idea while keeping your eyes closed. What might some of those other forms be? Here are some examples: “I feel like quitting.” “I don’t want to do this today.” “This is too hard.” “Who am I to think I can reach God?” “I’ll get more from this time be going into this thought than by trying to slip past it.”
In fact, with any kind of mind wandering, it’s a good idea to repeat the idea in order to get yourself back on track.
Here we have a way to gauge success. “If you are doing the exercises correctly”—and this means there is a “correctly”—there are two results. First, “you should experience some sense
of relaxation.” Second, “and even a feeling that you are approaching, if not actually entering into
light.” So be on the lookout for those measures of success. (And bear in mind that Course-based meditation is much more evaluative than some other methods. In other methods, I often hear that you shouldn’t evaluate if you’ve been successful—bringing that kind of evaluation in is against the whole spirit of meditation. But the Course has the opposite attitude.)
4. While sinking: try to think of formless light
Here he adds one last thing onto to #1, the main action. He says while you are sinking, try to think of light, formless and without limit. In other words, try to imagine yourself going toward formless light.
And finally he repeats what was much of the thrust of paragraph 7: Don’t forget what he told you about those thoughts not being able to stop you unless you give them that ability.
By the way, Helen’s original notes did not have the “but” at the beginning of sentence 2. That sentence was originally more stark. “Do not forget.” Don’t forget, he is saying, to repeat this idea often. In fact, be determined not to forget. Are you determined? You might want to imagine yourself, here in the morning, repeating this throughout the day. While doing so, imagine some decent gaps in which you forget for a while, then imagine getting back on track. When you actually reach those times, it might help to sit down with the lesson for a couple of minutes to really get yourself back on track.
Notice how well those four paragraphs serve as meditation induction. If someone can read them to you, or you can read them onto tape and play them back to yourself, they carry you into the meditation very effectively.
Begin the practice period by repeating today’s idea with your eyes open, and
close them slowly, repeating the idea several times more.
Then try to sink into your mind,
[try to enter very deeply into your own mind]
letting go every kind of interference and intrusion by quietly sinking past them.
Your mind cannot be stopped in this unless you choose to stop it.
It is merely taking its natural course.
Try to observe your passing thoughts without involvement, and slip quietly by them.
While no particular approach is advocated for this form of exercise,
what is needful is a sense of the importance of what you are doing;
its inestimable value to you,
and an awareness that you are attempting something very holy.
Salvation is your happiest accomplishment.
It is also the only one that has any meaning, because it is the only one that has any real use to you at all.
While you sink, repeat “importance.”
Then repeat “Inestimable value.”
Then repeat “holiness.”
If resistance rises in any form, pause long enough to repeat today’s idea,
[God is the light in which I see]
[Realize that to reach the light is to escape the darkness so that you can finally see.]
keep your eyes closed [for this] unless you are aware of fear.
In that case, you will probably find it more reassuring to open your eyes briefly.
Try, however, to return to the exercises with eyes closed as soon as possible.
If you are doing the exercises correctly, you should experience some sense
and even a feeling that you are approaching, if not actually entering into light.
Try to think of light, formless and without limit, as you pass by the thoughts
of this world.
[as you sink down and inward towards the center of your mind]
And do not forget [what he said:] that they cannot hold you to the world unless you
give them the power to do so.
Purpose: to contact the light within that allows you to see with true vision.
Longer: at least 3 times, for 3-5 minutes (longer is highly recommended if not a strain)
- Repeat the idea, close your eyes slowly, repeating the idea several more times.
- The rest of the practice involves a single motion of sinking into your mind. I find it helpful to think of this motion as having three aspects:
- Sink down and inward, past your surface thoughts and toward the light of God deep within your mind. As you do this, “try to think of light, formless and without limit” (10:2). If your meditation is successful, you will experience a feeling of approaching or even entering light.
- Do not allow yourself to get sidetracked. This is crucial. As you pass by your thoughts, observe them dispassionately, “and slip quietly by them” (7:5). They have no power to hold you back. If resistance arises, repeat the idea. If actual fear arises, open your eyes briefly and repeat the idea. Then return to the exercise.
- Hold in mind a heightened attitude about what you are doing, a sense that it has great importance, untold value, and is very holy. This attitude is more important than details of technique.
Remarks: This is the Workbook’s second meditation exercise (the first was Lesson 41), and you can see the immense importance given it here, especially in paragraphs 3-5. We may resist this practice, because it requires discipline our minds don’t yet have, and because it means leaving our ego’s thoughts and beliefs behind. But these are the very reasons why this practice is so important.
Frequent reminders: often—be determined not to forget
Repeat the idea with eyes open or closed, as seems best.